I remember seeing this old skinny dog who I think was lost or had run away or been abandoned. He roamed around town looking for enough scraps to ﬁll his aching belly. Every time he was around people, he was skittish and fearful. If you came near him, he would shy away and if you lifted your hand, he would quickly jump out of your reach. It was obvious that this poor brute had been very mistreated by the hands of a former master.
I also remember our yellow lab, Sophi. She was as bold as a lion. She knew she was part of the family, if she wanted something, she was not afraid to let you know. She alway had the pick of whatever she wanted, all she had to do was show her big, sad, brown eyes to one of the kids and she could get whatever they had available whether it was dinner, dessert or anything in between. She knew she belonged, there was no fearful cowering there at all. She didn't see herself as a slave or even a dog for that matter, but a full-ﬂedged member of the Harris family and was entitled to all the beneﬁts that came with that coveted position.
If only we as God's children had that same kind of bold, conﬁdent, sense of belonging.
Romans 8:15-17 NLT
"So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like
God's very own children, adopted into His family - calling Him "Father, dear Father." For
His Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God's children. And
since we are His children, we share His treasures - for everything God gives to His Son,
Christ, is ours too."
Not only are we deeply loved but we are also abundantly provided for. God doesn't want us to cower about like abused dogs, that would not accurately reﬂect His care for us as a loving Father. A conﬁdent and happy child is a testimony and evidence that he has loving, generous parents. It is the same with our Heavenly Father, if His children are content and blessed, it is a living testimony to His inﬁnite goodness.
Let us then as His dearly-loved children, be bold in His presence (Hebrews 4:16). We conﬁdently expect that our Father delights in us and in providing for us so that we may demonstrate to the world that out God is a loving and generous Father who delights in giving good things to His children. (Matthew 7:11, John 16:24)
I'm NOT a control freak, just ask anyone they'll tell you; anyone that
is except my 16 year old daughter who is learning to drive. Nothing
flushes your controlling tendencies out like not being in control.
She wanted to drive home from a football game yesterday. It
sounded like a good idea, I mean, you know, I'm a good dad,
a little bit of nostalgic, "Dad and daughter time", that is until I
have my finger imbedded into the dashboard and every word
from my mouth is unsolicited advice on how to drive correctly.
"Slow down, put on your blinker, turn wider around that corner, SLOW DOWN!"
No, I'm not a control freak, I'm a father, just ask my daughter....
Jesus' words in Mark 8:35, If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will
lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the Gospel,
you will find true life." Easy words to read, near impossible words to
live. What! Jesus is asking me to give up my life, to relinquish control. But
what will He do once He has control? Where will He take me, how can I be sure
I will like what He has in mind? How do I know I will be happy or fulfilled
or successful if I let Jesus do the driving? What if He crashes my life
into the guardrail or if I get into a head-on collision on the road of non-control?
What kind of insurance coverage and benefits package does this discipleship
gig come with? How can I be expected to relinquish control when I don't even
know where He is taking me? Okay, I admit it, I'm a slight control freak.
All the questions we find ourselves asking: Where are you taking me? When
will we get there? Are there any rest stops along the way? Are you watching
out for the...? These are all the wrong questions. The one question I need to
ask is: "Do I trust the driver?" If I trust the driver and His ability to control the vehicle
of my life and I trust that He knows the way better than I do, I can trust that He will get
me to the right place at the right time in good condition. Relax, let go of the dashboard,
loosen up those clenched leg muscles that are trying to push your feet through the
floorboards, quit giving directions, sit back, trust Jesus and enjoy the trip.
Neil Sedaka didn't quite get it right with his song, it should have been,
"Giving up is hard to do." That is where the words of the Apostle James
comfort us where he says, "But He gives more grace." (James 4:6) It is hard to
"let go and let God", but thankfully we don't have to muster the courage to
do it, He provides the grace to accomplish what wecan't do on our own. Jesus
loves control freaks like me and transforms us into people who trust and
people who accomplish greater things by letting go that we ever could
by running the show. Thanks God, I need you.
Saturday we had some friends over for dinner and we decided on a whim to make an apple crisp for dessert. We dove in wholeheartedly peeling and slicing apples, melting butter and mixing it all up. All was going well until we discovered we were missing baking powder. Who knew you needed baking powder in an apple crisp? I knew we had some in an unpacked box SOMEWHERE!
As I looked at the mountain of boxes in the garage, I decided I didn't have the courage to face
that task so Shanda decided to call the neighbors and borrow some. She called and they had just left for the evening but told us to go on in and get what we needed. They said that if the door was locked just go around back and go in one of the two there, surely one was bound to be open. Shanda sent me off and reminded me to hurry it up! Well, you guessed it, every door, window and crack was locked tight. (Paranoid I guess!) I peeked in the kitchen window and there were all the supplies I needed but to my dismay I could not gain access to them.
This makes me think of how different it is when we are sent on a mission by Jesus. Here's what Jesus said:
"Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." Then He
breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21-22 NLT)
When the Father sent Jesus, He had everything necessary to accomplish His mission.
1. He knew exactly what He was supposed to do and why. (Luke 19:10, 1Jn. 3:8)
2. He had access (authority) from the Father to do what needed to be done. (Matt. 28:18)
3. He was thoroughly equipped to accomplish His mission. (Matt. 3:15-17)
4. He was passionate about His mission. (John 2:16-17,Luke 19:41)
5. He accomplished His mission. (John 19:30)
When Shanda sent me to get baking powder, my mission was clear, I knew exactly what I needed; I had lots of passion because I love apple crisp; the problem was I was not equipped properly with the authority to access the place where the provision was. I had permission but no authority (the keys) to do what needed to be done.
When the Father sent Jesus here to do the work of Redemption, he not only provided everything Jesus needed, He was given authority and access to the provision in order to get the job done (Matt. 16:19). Jesus does the same for us. He has given us His Holy Spirit, we have the same power and authority He had. We now have access to all that we need to accomplish His mission.
"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." (Ephesians
So, let's be determined about out our mission since Jesus died to fulﬁll it. Let's be thankful because God has provided all we need to accomplish our mission. Let's be bold because Jesus gave us His authority when He ﬁlled us with His Holy Spirit.
This is kingdom living.
As for the apple crisp, we skipped the baking powder. It turned out just ﬁne, tasted great but just a little watery. (I ate most of it myself!)
In our city there is a man who by all accounts is very confused. About six feet two inches tall, quite hairy and by most criteria, a fairly "manly" man. For some reason this man in his brokenness and pain chooses to wear a miniskirt, bikini top, gaudy makeup, high-healed shoes and call himself "Mary" (name changed here).The first time I encountered "Mary", we were riding our bikes downtown with six kids in tow. As we were crossing the street we had a seven year old straggler who had gotten detached from the pack, "Mary" kindly warned us of the straggler and to be careful. My kids eyes got as big as dinner plates when they heard the deep baritone voice coming out of the makeup sodden, dress-clad person that they had previously assumed was just a very ugly woman with too much body hair. Then came the barrage of questions which I did my best to answer in a very fatherly, "Christian" way all the time being ticked at "Mary" for introducing my kids to a whole other world that I wasn't ready for them to be exposed to.
When the Mary's of life cross our path, what do we see? Those that are broken down, worn out, distressed, hopeless, in despair, dirty, sinful - even wretched, what do we see? That is the question that God asked Ezekiel in this passage:
Then he asked me, "Son of man, can these bones become living people again?""O Sovereign Lord ," I replied, "you alone know the answer to that." (Ezekiel 37:3 NLT)
Let me paraphrase the conversation for a moment. "What do you see Ezekiel?" All that remains of a life that was once was alive, vibrant and thriving, just a pile of bones. That was pretty much Ezekiel's response, "Nothing much Lord, just a pile of dried up ole bones." What do we see when we encounter the Mary's of life, those that or torn and ravaged by sin and Satan? Do we cross the street to avoid the encounter? Do we turn our eyes away and busy ourselves with something else to block out the possibility of having to engage in conversation?
The Lord's next question is even more revealing as to the condition of our hearts, "Ezekiel, can these bones live?" God, are you kidding me? These are worthless, dried up old bones. No value here, their time is long gone there is no hope left for them. Ezekiel's reply was one that didn't have much faith in it, he said, "Lord only you know!" Often times that is the extent of my faith. I can't see anything worth salvaging, all I see is a wrecked life, lost career, an empty house, hope destroyed, ravaged by sin, beaten by life, friendless, vision less, hopeless, worthless - a pile of bones. Thank you Jesus for the power of grace, I see bones Jesus sees an army.
What God says next is the most incredible thing yet. The same God that shouted to a dead man to come out of the grave commands His prophet to: "Speak to these bones and say, 'Dry bones, listen to the Word of the Lord...I will put breath in you and you will come back to life.'"
Just as Lazarus had no choice but to come out of that grave, when the prophet spoke the word of the Lord over those bones, they sprung back to life and became a great army (abridged version). No matter how wrecked, hopeless and ravaged a life is; yours, mine or another's; when the Word of the Lord comes, it changes everything. What was dead becomes alive, what what was once considered hopeless has hope restored. Just like Ezekiel spoke the will and Word of God into a hopeless situation, so we too must speak the word of The Lord over our situation, over that person who has no strength or inclination to find the One who can change everything. He sends us out filled with His Spirit and clothed with His power into the hopeless, dark sea of humanity and says "Prophesy O man, O woman, speak My Word, bring My power, change a situation, bring hope, bring help, make a difference in the world around you!"
The next time you see a person or a situation that seems like it is beyond help or beyond hope, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit asking "What do you see?" Remember the power of the one who set the stars in their place and say, "Others may see bones but I see and army!"
Pastors Phil Harris of Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.